Much Ado About Canine Flu

Dog with mask

One of the more exciting, yet challenging, aspects of veterinary medicine is that nothing stays the same. Things are always changing, whether it be the introduction of a promising pharmaceutical to the market, the publication of a study that sends us in a new direction, or the emergence of a previously unknown disease.

While canine influenza isn’t exactly new, it has recently come into focus as a significant disease process in our pets. In fact, canine flu is quite the buzzword in many dog-loving circles. So, what do you need to know?

Fairview Veterinary Hospital is here to tell you everything you need to know, in order to take care of your pets, and canine flu is no exception.

The Facts About Canine Flu

In the human world, we have had quite a flu season this winter. When it comes to the flu, there are many virus strains and they tend to be species-specific. This means that your dog won’t catch the flu from you and vice versa. Unfortunately, though, canine flu is still something to worry about.

We are aware of two strains of canine influenza in the United States. The first, H3N8, made its rounds through greyhound racing kennels in Florida in 2004. Significant outbreaks occurred within kennel situations, but the risk was still relatively low until 2015, when the H3N2 strain of canine flu made a major impact in many parts of the country.

Since 2015, the canine flu has continued to be an issue for many dogs. Canine influenza causes a respiratory infection that is spread through nasal secretions of infected dogs. The symptoms often resemble those of kennel cough, including:

  • Fever

  • Coughing

  • Runny nose

  • Runny eyes

  • Decreased appetite

Thankfully, most healthy dogs are able to clear the infection, but there have been fatalities associated with the disease. The very young, very old, and otherwise immunocompromised are at high risk of serious complications.

Protecting Your Pet

While the increasing incidence of canine flu can be scary, it doesn’t mean that your pup can’t go about their daily activities. It does mean that you should take some extra precautions, especially if you have a social pet.

Social pets are those who frequent areas that other pets have stayed in. These include dogs who board, get groomed, go to doggy daycare, or spend time at dog parks. All of these places are potential hotbeds of infection.

If your pet is at high risk of exposure, be sure to:

Ask about vaccination – There is now a vaccine available that protects against both strains of canine influenza. When first receiving the vaccine, it requires a follow up booster in 3-4 weeks and then is administered annually. Please call us to ask if think your pet is a good candidate for this vaccine.

Keep it clean – Good hygiene and sanitation is very important. Don’t allow your pet to share toys or bowls with unfamiliar dogs. Be sure to change clothes and wash your hands before interacting with your pet if you have been around other pets, since infected particles can survive on objects.

Assess the risk – If your pet is very young, geriatric, or has a condition that interferes with normal immune function, you may want to reassess if social activities are worth the risk. Perhaps a pet sitter would be a good alternative to boarding.

Of course, it is also important to have your pet examined right away if you feel they are sick. Although we cannot cure the flu, we can make sure that your pet isn’t showing signs of complications, such as dehydration or pneumonia, that can have serious consequences. Allowing us to step in early can help to avoid a pet emergency.

By taking some extra precautions and vaccinating your pet, you have nothing to fear. We are here to help you keep your pet healthy, and intend to do so to the best of our ability.